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Oakland County Probate & Estate Administration Law Blog

An estate plan can entail a number of documents in Michigan

When it comes time to think about how to handle the estate-planning process, there may be more than meets the eye. Each person's estate plan can be vastly different than another person's. Anyone in Michigan who is in the beginning stages of the estate plan process may want to be clear about the differences between documents and the facts about which document may be best for which situation.

Over the years, people have been advised to view creation of a trust as preferable to creating a will. A trust gives a person the power to transfer assets and funds during their lifetime rather than when that person passes on. If a will is chosen, the probate process can take some time, but some say the downside of a will and probate in general is being exaggerated. Anyone choosing between a will and a trust may want to discover which one is best for his or her particular situation.

A power of attorney should be part of any Michigan estate plan

The decision to begin the estate planning process may seem overwhelming and confusing. However, regardless of age or life circumstances, anyone involved in an estate plan should consider the benefits of having a power of attorney as part of the process. In Michigan, there are many reasons a person should have a power of attorney, but one primary reason is to avoid disputes among family members during an already difficult time.

Whenever decisions need to be made regarding the care of an elderly or incapacitated loved one, there can be a great deal of stress and contention involved. There may be medical and financial decisions that need to be made and made quickly. Without any kind of power of attorney designating who can make these decisions, family disputes may erupt.

Simple mistakes can lead to chaos for an estate plan

Many people might not give too much of their time and energy to thinking about the estate planning process. However, having a comprehensive estate plan long before it is needed is the best way to ensure that a Michigan family is properly cared for. However, if an estate plan isn't updated or adjusted as needs arise, it can be just as useless as not having one at all.

Recently, a few noted details about the estate plans of a few celebrities brought a few common mistakes to light. One mistake noted was how Philip Seymour Hoffman stated that he didn't want trust-fund kids just living off his money. He decided to then leave money for the care of his children with their mother, whom he had never married. Because he wasn't married to her and there was no trust set up, she has had to go through the probate process to get access to funds, costing her time and money.

Things people get wrong when preparing an estate plan

The process of creating an estate plan may seem like a cut and dried kind of endeavor. However, there are aspects of an estate plan that people commonly get wrong or disregard altogether. It is important for Michigan residents to understand the mistakes of others to ensure they are on the path to comprehensive estate planning for themselves and their family.

Perhaps the biggest mistake or misconception is the belief that people just don't need to create a will or start the process yet. It is reported that 64 percent of people don't have a will at all. It is recommended that anyone over 18 should have a will just to make things easier on loved ones in the event of an accident. It doesn't matter how much someone has financially -- anyone with a bank account should have a will.

A special needs trust may be ideal for some situations

Families can be complicated, and the individual needs of family members or other beneficiaries may be just as complicated. This means that each family may have specific and very different needs as they move forward with the estate planning process. For some Michigan families, the creation of a trust, specifically a special needs trust, may be a viable option for overseeing the care of a loved one.

A trust is essentially funds set aside for distribution to a beneficiary, based on specific directions or stipulations. The trust is overseen by a party who has been designated to release and manage the funds according to the wishes of the grantor. A special needs trust is a specific type of trust that ensures a loved one with special needs is cared for according to the wishes of the person leaving the funds behind.

Inheritance solutions for estranged children in Michigan

When it comes to leaving assets to beneficiaries, the process can be difficult for families if there are estranged children or strained family relations to be considered. For Michigan families, there are creative solutions for dealing with how to leave an inheritance to estranged children. While leaving that person out of the estate plan is always an option, there are times when that can make the process more complicated rather than simpler.

Families becomes estranged for all sorts of reasons, and this can leave parents at a loss over what to do about an inheritance. Some common reasons parents may not want to simply leave assets to adult children can include drug and alcohol issues. Some other reasons may pertain to bad relations with the spouse of an adult child or illegal lifestyles and habits.

Estate plan needs vary for childless couples in Michigan

Oftentimes, when people think about beneficiaries of assets and funds, they may automatically think about parents leaving an estate to be split between children. However, for Michigan couples and individuals without children, the process of crafting an estate plan may be slightly different. It may require some more thought regarding beneficiaries than for those who have children and who simply plan to leave all assets to those children.

One estate planning tool a childless couple or individual may want to invest in is long-term care insurance. This can help those who foresee the need for assisted living or even an adult day care situation who may not be covered by traditional insurance, as this kind of care can be extremely costly. Another means of covering this kind of expense may be the creation of a trust.

Finding out more about a trust is important

There are many options for estate planning and no one plan will work for everyone. However, regardless of the size of the estate, a trust may be a good idea to consider. For anyone in Michigan who is venturing into estate planning, learning about the different types of trusts can help a family determine what may be the best course of action for them.

Individual needs and expenses may determine the type of trust that is best. One type that is common is a minor children’s trust. This is meant to provide for the needs of minor children. A generation skipping trust is a great option for grandparents who want to leave funds to grandchildren.

Estate plan mistakes of James Gandolfini may be lesson for others

Oftent, people think those who have a great deal of assets must have all of their estate planning ducks in a row. However, the death of Soprano's star James Gandolfini showed that not everyone has taken the necessary steps to ensure that a comprehensive estate plan is in place. Because Gandolfini had a will, the details of his estate plan were made public. Anyone in Michigan who has yet to make an estate plan may be able to learn from his reported mistakes.

One mistake Gandolfini reportedly made was that he never truly finished the estate-planning process. He started to make plans when his daughter was born. However, after his death, his will did not include property he owned. He may have started to plan his estate and fate of his assets, but he had never finished prior to dying suddenly.

Tips for how Michigan residents should not estate plan

Every estate plan is different. Despite the size of an estate or the value of any assets, an estate plan is pretty much the same process for all Michigan residents who want to protect their family and also protect all for which they have worked. For those who have not started or who have devised an estate plan years ago, there are some important tips about what not to do.

One vital tip is to not select the wrong beneficiary. In some high-profile cases, a person of considerable wealth has chosen a beneficiary who has developed money problems or even substance abuse problems that made their ability to handle an estate responsibly quite questionable. Also, some have chosen a beneficiary and not updated the plan -- meaning that a beneficiary listed is someone who is already deceased, further complicating the estate-administration process.

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